If CBS’ shows The Big Bang Theory and Hawaii Five-0 had a baby, and that baby popped Adderall and was fueled by premium octane, it would be named Scorpion. The new fall action-drama centers on a foursome of geniuses (and one down-to-Earth waitress) who are recruited by Homeland Security to help defend against modern-day threats. Sounds great in theory, but the over-reliance on geek speak and the “Let’s talk so fast that no one will notice how dumb this is” tactic quickly wear thin and make this possible prodigy fall far short of its potential. Hit the jump for my Scorpion recap.
The multi-cultural cast features Elyes Gabel as Walter O’Brien, a genius with an IQ of 197, smoldering looks, and a rocky past with Federal Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick). We’re introduced to a younger version of Walter, who has recently hacked into NASA in order to download the shuttle’s blueprints in order to decorate his wall. This, obviously, attracted the attention of the U.S. government, who extradite Walter from Ireland and offer him a job.
Jump to a few years later where Walter is breaking up with his girlfriend of three months because, as he explains, he lacks the ability to empathize with those who are less intellectually gifted than he is. If that healthy dose of exposition weren’t enough, we soon meet the rest of the team, whose abilities are described point-blank by Agent Gallo: Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham), a brilliant mathematician/statistician who is also a germaphobe and suffers from OCD; Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas), a Harvard-level behaviorist who moonlights as a grifter and petty crook; and Happy Quinn ::sigh:: (Jadyn Wong), a brilliant electrical engineer with a grating accent and a gruff disposition. Together these exceptional talents join forces to battle the threats that plague our modern times.
What threats, you ask? Oh, your run-of-the-mill problems like losing communication with 56 inbound passenger jets, or a custom virus developed and spread by a biohacker. It’s the first issue we deal with in the pilot, and boy does the team come together quickly to tackle the problem. We get to view such exciting set pieces as: the 405 freeway, an illegal immigrant’s moderately successful diner, and a server farm! In order to distract viewers from these less-than-interesting settings, the dialogue speed is turned up to 11 and packed so full of technical jargon that they might as well have Spritz’d a list of Apple product specifications across the screen for an hour.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh, and equally possible, perhaps Scorpion is trying too hard to be like the rest of the network’s shows. The premise is interesting: intellectually gifted people coming together to solve intractable problems when not doing so results in catastrophe, oh and in their spare time they’ll work out their emotional issues, too. Great. But if our heroes are meant to be the smartest of the bunch, then maybe don’t have them drive a Ferrari at 200mph mere feet below a passenger jet in order to hardwire a laptop to it with three feet of Ethernet cable… Get yourself a drone, slap that software patch on a USB stick, send that sucker up, then kick back and enjoy your Surge Colada, because your job is now done!
I surprised myself to find that I actually like Katharine McPhee as Paige “The Waitress” Dineen, and that her character – common sense mother of an autistic/genius-level son – actually worked well within the team. There are few other bright spots hidden in the murky mess, so as Dodd might say (which he does incessantly), the chances of Scorpion landing a second season renewal is less than 3%.